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Reinventing organizations (2014) [pdf] (reinventingorganizations.com)
40 points by xvirk on June 27, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 13 comments

The author of this book wants readers to pay what they feel the book was worth to them. http://www.reinventingorganizations.com/pay-what-feels-right...

So you if you end up downloading and reading the direct PDF link (the security through obscurity method is clearly failing here) I recommend paying what feels right to the author:

You can watch a pretty good summary of the book here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcS04BI2sbk

The PDF link isn't to the book.

I started a company (GrantTree) that operates (or tries to operate) largely by the principles described in this book, though of course we have our own unique vision of it. A lot of it is described at http://danieltenner.com/open-cultures/ .

Feel free to ask me anything about how this actually works in practice - I know it's not obvious from just reading about it. I'll do my best though.

I found this a worthwhile read. It's an interesting view of how to run a business without hierarchy, with plenty of real world examples and answers to all of those "yeah, but how do you ... ?" questions. There is one weakness however, there needs to be one leader who forces a leaderless style, because left to its own devices a group of people develops a hierarchy. All of the examples in the book had founders or leaders who forcibly did away with hierarchy, and in the examples where they left the company reverted to traditional c&c.

To be fair, the only example "where they left" is AES, where the leader was forced out by the shareholders and replaced with a more traditionally minded leader, so it's not the leader's absence which caused the reversion - or at least we can't know for sure.

The other examples don't show a leader leaving and the company reverting to traditional top-down, as far as I can remember.

There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of the idea of a hierarchy-free organization. I get the appeal of thinking we are going to live in a world without bosses, but how utopian is this idea? Misguided, maybe.

I believe the current examples show that even relatively flat orgs must revert back to a command and control structure once they get to any size, for instance Github, and Google retricting freedom (the 20% worktime perk being taken away). Orgs are based on a division of labor and that means roles and that means you play your position and that is less individual freedom.

Also, hierarchies don't exist just to 'tell people what to do' or divide people by status - bosses have authority to resolve conflicts among peers, and a final decider - as anyone who has witnessed the pitfalls of 'design by committee'.

The book linked here provides several examples of orgs that grew to hundreds and thousands of people without going command and control. So, while it's fine to be skeptical, it's even better to actually take a look at the research done here...

First of all, as dangoor points out, the presentation linked to here lists a dozen companies, some including thousands of employees, operating by teal, hierarchy-of-people-free principles.

Secondly, teal does not mean "flat hierarchy". The meaning is far more subtle than that. There is some impact on hierarchy but calling it "flat hierarchy" is very misleading - arguably that's more a green approach than teal - this is not surprising if you're operating in an orange environment at the moment, as people typically only see one level higher at best. Teal recognises that people are different and different people are likely to have greater or lesser accountabilities, impact, etc. What it rejects is the idea that anyone owns anyone else. We are all free agents operating in the organisation by choice. No one has the authority to order another person around. That is not a "flat hierarchy", nor is it a false declaration of equality between all - it is something else altogether.

Thirdly, yes, the traditional management hierarchy serves many, many functions, including conflict resolution and making decisions. Those processes have to be handled in some way. According to the RO book, most teal companies end up developing robust conflict management practices that teach people to resolve their own conflicts. You might think that doesn't work - that's because you're operating in a traditional hierarchical environment where indeed it can't work. GrantTree has been going down the teal route for over 2 years now and it's only this year that we started developing a proper conflict management process. As for the decision making, I cover that in this article, if you're curious: http://danieltenner.com/2014/11/06/the-advice-process-defini...

So, while your points are totally fair and skepticism is always a good practice, based on my direct experience and based on the dozen or so examples of companies doing this, in the book - I believe that this is not utopian at all. In fact, I am fairly convinced that just as 100 years ago the red and amber models were dominant, and today the orange model is dominant, give it another few decades (I reckon less than 3) and the green and teal models will start to dominate.

Thanks for these perspectives. Haven't thought that people might not be able to see beyond the next level from the level they're in. Quite an interesting thought. And it seems to apply to all the verticals of human development, like spirituality, self-identity, cognitive capacities, etc.

Hm, now that I think about it and watched Ray Kurzweil talking about technology evolution and human's brain evolution, he pointed out that entire nature is hierarchical and our brains evolved hierarchical pattern recognizers. So, the hierarchy is inherent within our ways of thinking... But we are hardwired to develop thinking in more abstract ways compared to previously build abstraction levels. Hence, maybe we will build on top of our current hierarchically based way of thinking and be able to go beyond that frontier of limited, egoistic perception of reality. And possibly such teal organizations are just a tip of the emerging consciousness level we're beginning to shift into as a spieces. Consciousness is not limited by the physicality of our World that imposes hierarchical structures on its matter...

Well, I believe Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek shows that even hierarchies can be great for more advanced civilizations. But, bare in mind that in that universe, the crew could take the captain down, if he didn't play fair towards the entire crew (a.k.a. organization). So, I still do believe that hierarchies are important part of the way we can organize to achieve things together, but it's not the only possible way, as Frederick Laloux depicts through his research.


The original link is to a pdf of slides which summarize his ideas -- not the book itself.

Nice read. Pay what feels right.

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